The good kind of fear


So many things to fear.  To be human and do MORE than huddle in bed, sheets pulled up over our head, takes courage.

Cowering in bed

The Bible is very forthright when it comes to fear.  I can’t think of one Bible character whose fear is not described.  Abraham worried about the Egyptians and thus passed his wife, Sarah, off as his sister. Moses shrank back from the task God wanted to give him, that of confronting Pharaoh.  Esther trembled at the idea of approaching her husband the King without his initial bidding.

The former blind man’s parents feared excommunication from the Temple community when asked to explain why their grown son could now see. The disciples feared the Romans and met furtively behind locked doors after Jesus’ execution.

And this week we faced horror after horror as events in Paris, Syria and Nigeria unfolded, just to name a few!

But there are also more mundane fears.  Friday, I had the occasion to chaperone middle school students on the first of five afternoons skiing here in Western North Carolina.  It had been 12 years since I took to the slopes.  I found myself feeling nervous due to the unknown arrangements of ski rental (will my feet cramp in those confining blocks of cement?), of navigating the ski lifts (will I ‘miss’ the moving seat and fall and make a fool of myself?), of avoiding dare-devil kids on snowboards (will I fall and break something and not be able to complete my daily walks?)

John Calvin observed that our hearts are ‘idol-factories’. Well, we are equally skilled at inventing fears.

Therefore, I felt greatly encouraged by a Desiring God blog post entitled Trading Fear for Fear

Reading it over several times (the link is above) and grappling to put the truths into my own words, I have concluded that God MEANS us to fear and has wired us to do so. But there is a right kind of fear and a wrong kind of fear.

I’m curious to learn how YOU would explain the godly kind of fear (no one needs any help in describing our default mechanism to fear the unknown and the threatening).  Here is what I have concluded from studying God’s word and letting it sink in:

  1. Fearing God – Hebrew word YIRAH (Strong’s # 3374) is experiencing  awe and respect and even a thrill at the ‘greater-than-we-can-grasp’ power and majesty and being of God.  Psalm 2:11 illustrates this posture as in “Worship/Serve the Lord in Yirah (reverence) and rejoice in trembling.
  2. The proper fear of the Lord is actually a gift granted to those to whom light is given.  Before this ability to see, we actually have a twisted view of the world and of God.  For in fact, we are by nature born into darkness and the light with which we see and evaluate the world is about as powerful as that emanating from your bathroom nightlight.  When God, via the Holy Spirit, flips on the switch giving us HIS light, we then see the truth of the world for the first time. We then begin to KNOW who God is and how life, liberty and joy are the birthright of all of us who grab hold of this true, forever and loving God who has given us new birth.
  3. Therefore, until we are transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness in to the Kingdom of Light, we can’t understand the right kind of fear, godly fear, because we don’t see/understand God correctly.  (Colossians 1:13 –He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.)
  4. Once our eyes are opened, we can begin to fear God properly. And what blessings accompany this YIRAH/correct attitude and posture toward God! Just do a google search on ‘fear of the Lord’ and feast on the many promises of God.

5. Finally (and this helps me the most), I can’t fear two completely opposite things at one time.  Why not?  Aren’t we good at multi-tasking?  Perhaps YOU are, but it’s more than holding 2 ideas together at one time.  What we fear, what we respond to is dictated by what we look at.  If I focus on troubling world circumstances like the evil terror that seems unrestrained and growing, or if I dwell on my imagined fears accompanying upcoming new experiences, or if I worry about what might happen if this or that happens, then I am fearing PRECISELY in a way that God commands me NOT to. Isaiah 8:12 is a good reminder: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread.”

However, when we fear/revere/thrill/look at the awe-FUL, wonder-FUL character and works of God, then all sorts of attendant resources are made available to us, besides JOY.  The same prophet Isaiah assures of that….

33:6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

2a - Maria skiing for first time in 13 yrs - 9 Jan 2006

A new name and a new nature

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My new name:  “Christos-Maria”

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation:  2 Cor 5:17

Ontology is a good word.  It refers to beingness, something’s essence or someone’s nature/identity.  Think of the attributes, the properties or categories of something that exists. Why should you care about this term?  If you have been born again, YOUR ontology has changed.  You have a completely new nature.  As a newborn Christian, you were not merely ‘topped off’ with spiritual power.  Au contraire!  It’s not for nothing that the Bible talks about dying and being born anew.  One can’t be born a 2nd time, unless one has died.

Recently I attended a women’s retreat where we looked afresh at the book of Ephesians.  The last talk included an explication of the armor of God.  Since then, I’ve been mentally dressing myself each morning on my walk.  When I get to the breastplate of righteousness, I imagine myself as a Roman soldier, in shiny armor.  We’re all dressed alike; our chests and hearts protected with this silvery plating, a helmet, a shield and a pair sturdy sandals that can grip well (thanks, Regina!)  We are tucked in securely with a studded belt that holds a short but wicked sword, our one offensive weapon.  When we brandish it, we shout truth OUTLOUD i.e. statements of faith-building biblical facts.  The very words of God, shattering the atmosphere by life-changing sound waves, impact forever not just us who utter them, but the spirit world, as well as our brothers & sisters in Christ.  Take that!  En garde!

Shoulder to shoulder in our individual armor we are members of the church, the body of Christ. But from a distance, carrying on with the Roman soldier illustration, no one can tell that it’s Maria, or Regina, or Lise or Kris or Mabel.  What people see are identical soldiers. What makes us identical?   It should be Christ that others see or sense.   We are now new creations, in Christ, if we have been born again.  We have a new nature.  Yes, we have our personalities, but anything truly good, is from Christ in us.

And with this new ontology (which we can’t lose) we have new powers.  You & I can do things now that in our old sinful lonely flesh, we could never have done.  I’m thankful that the old Maria exists no longer (she’s died!)  In her place is this new creation:  “Christos-Maria”. And since I’m this new creation, then anything good I now do, it’s because of Christ in me….so He should get the glory.

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